Lindsey Stirling is the embodiment of modern celebrity culture. Having made it to the quarter finals of America’s Got Talent in 2011, her YouTube channel has amassed nearly 12 million subscribers, with each video raking up views in the millions. It’s all part of the changing tide, where icons are forged within online platforms and social media. In Stirling’s case, this is rightfully so, as her musical style shines through, defying genres by blending her classical skills as a violinist with modern electronica and hip-hop elements.
Her fifth studio album Artemis has dropped, and with it an imaginative concept. Ultimately this is an album about hope. Stirling has faced many trials and tribulations behind the scenes, the loss of her father and her best friend taking a massive toll. After reaching her lowest point, and feeling that she had ‘lost’ her old-self, she fought through, and came out the other side renewed. This journey of traversing the darkness, to return to the light is cleverly reflected within Atremis itself. The album’s namesake is not only taken from the ancient Greek goddess of the Moon (which in itself is an excellent metaphor), it’s also the name of the album’s main protagonist, as she embarks on her own journey. Stirling channels her inner-self through this protagonist, her emotions portrayed in the sonic arrangements throughout the record.
The sombre tones can definitely be felt in opening track “Underground”. There’s a sorrowful mood within the piano melody, the violin notes more muffled and muted in the background. As an electronic rhythm kicks in, violin also takes prominence. There’s a real sense of urgency to it, and it feels like the prelude to an epic journey. A chorus of cyberpunk soundscapes meld with orchestral arrangements in title track “Artemis”, which introduces our hero. Droning synths are contrasted by stunning strings, as if the two are at war with each other, highlighting her struggle. Gritty electronics are companied by the plucking of violin strings in “Til the Light Goes Out”, continuing the themes of the previous track, reflecting the harsh nature that life can bring. In complete contrast, “Between Twilight” is serene. This track has a fairytale mood to it, complete with sweeping melodies, and ethereal harmonies. There’s a minimal use of electronic elements, making this feel completely organic. Stirling stretches her vocal muscles in “Foreverglow”, and it honestly makes me wonder why she doesn’t sing more often, her voice is stunningly angelic. There are qualities of folk to this song, that are contextualised by the electronica rumblings. It’s utterly enchanting. The outlook starts to seem a lot less bleak, and it feels as if there’s a hint of hope of the horizon. “Love Goes On And On” is a powerhouse of a track. Evanescence’s Amy Lee provides guest vocals, and both artists compliment each other to the fullest, as Stirling’s incredible violin melodies match Lee’s powerful harmonies. They both practically soar here! Old-timey piano signals the start of “Masquerade”, as if it were being played-back on a classical record player. This seamlessly bleeds into the main refrain, which takes a turn for the dramatic, and is incredibly lush in it’s presentation. “Sleepwalking” aptly feels like walking within a dream. It progresses into something that is surprisingly energetic, aided by a very catchy EDM rhythm. The battle between classic and modern once again occurs in “Darkside”, in what feels like a final battle out of the shadows. This track transforms in a multitude of ways, with our protagonist ultimately becoming the victor. The air of victory can be felt within “The Upside”. There’s a sense of release and freedom to it, the pleasing structure of the song makeing it feel all the more uplifting. From there “Guardian” reaches majestic levels, as “Aurora” gives a euphoric release, both being absolutely beautiful, as if it were a warm embrace. An alternate version on “The Upside” closes the record, this version featuring vocals by Elle King. Her performance spruces up the track, infusing it with a different kind of liveliness. This serves as an epilogue to the whole story, a reflection of conquering the darkness, and leaving it behind. It’s a fairytale ending that’s extremely satisfying.
It can be easy to compare moments of this album to Lindsey Stirling’s earlier work, as there are echoes of it here, especially in the latter half. Although doing so wouldn’t do Artemis justice. It’s not that her older material is bad, it’s still iconic, It’s just that she’s grown and developed so much as an artist, and this record is a testament to that. If anything, the hints of her roots help to define the concept even further, and it’s done in a way that makes it feel fresh again. Another advantage of this album is that there are less guest vocals, something that was all too prominent in her previous outing, Brave Enough. The guest vocalists are effective when they’re introduced, but Stirling takes front and centre, which is exactly how it should be. Her violin skills are monumental throughout, her sonnet’s enthralling. At times it’s breathtaking, and I found myself hanging on to every note played.
The concept that drives it is a fascinating one, that conjures imagery of a dystopian neon-drenched future set within a fantasy world.
If I could describe Artemis in one word, it would be captivating. The concept that drives it is a fascinating one, that conjures imagery of a dystopian neon-drenched future set within a fantasy world. It takes the listener by the hand and whisks them away on a journey. It’s the soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist (but really should), and is grand in terms of scale. It packs emotional depth, where the uphill struggle from the darkness can be felt, and makes the experience a rewarding, uplifting one. It’s also one that’s bound to resonate with many listeners, who may have their own struggles, delivering a positive message, one of hope. For Lindsey Stirling, the light has returned, and she has shone that light on us all, resulting in her finest work yet.
Final Verdict: Lindsey Stirling has evoked her personal experiences, and crafted them into a brilliantly imaginative concept album. Artemis is an epic journey out of the darkness, with uplifting results, that delivers a positive, hopeful message.